So, a while ago, ‘Cerebus’ came to its end.
I was probably about twenty when Hewligan and Darmeus introduced me to the Aardvark. I had already cultivated an interest in earth pigs but Cerebus was different. ‘High Society’ and ‘Church and State’ weren’t just comic books; they were treatises, dealing with matters political, religious and polemical in a way that I had never seen. This was the point in time that I realised that the things people call ‘pop culture’ could be so much more than ‘idle entertainment.’
So I began collecting ‘Cerebus’ in the phonebook format, which was both expensive and space-consuming. Since I wasn’t buying individual issues there was always going to be the period of year, maybe more, between purchases. I would keep an ear out for information about the series, to see where the plot was going, knowing that eventually I would consume the material en masse.
It all seemed ideal.
Then, one day, Dave Sim got religion and he got it bad.
I suppose I should have started to realise that the jog was coming up when the Cirinists started being so nasty. ‘Cerebus’ had its moments of serious discourse, but, by and large, the material I became a fan of laced everything in humour. Groucho Marx was the head of a powerful city state whilst the Roach was the ultimate pisstake of every superhero in the visual arts business. When ‘Cerebus’ dealt with the idolatry and power-hunger of religion it did it by having the Aardvark punt first a child, and then an old man, off a building whilst demanding gold (effectively showing that Christianity has, in some ways, moved on from the Parable of the Old Woman). To find that now we were talking about female voids and creative juices… It all seemed a little icky and I couldn’t see where the punchline was going to fit in.
It turns out that I was looking for something the creator hadn’t intended.
The last trade of ‘Cerebus’ I read was ‘Guys.’ Cerebus takes over a bar and has several funny encounters. In many respects it was a return to the humour of the earlier work. A short book (or should we say ‘chapter?’) it provides the setup for the next major moment in the series, the reappearance of Rick (a character who married Cerebus’s one true love). I was actually somewhat behind in my purchasing at the time; by the time ‘Guys’ came out ‘Rick’s Story’ was over and ‘Going Home’ was being collated.
And Dave Sim had come out as the only true man left on the Planet Earth.
It was in ‘Form and Void’ that Sim finally revealed to his audience exactly what he thought about women, men and the threat of Marxism. He took up half of each issue with part of his essay on the nature of the female void that threatens to extinguish male creative power, an essay, I have to say, that was hardly convincing in its arguments and very poorly written (the essay sections of ‘Form and Void’ were readily available on the interweb). Whilst reading his diatribes my eyes would glance to the bottom shelf of one of my many bookcases and stare at the ‘Cerebus’ volumes there. I could, I told myself, separate the artist from the personality; I could appreciate ‘Cerebus’ as a work and not let Dave Sim the man taint the delight I found in, say, ‘High Society.’
But I was wrong.
This is not to say that I should separate artist from personality; Walt Disney may have been an anti-semite but that doesn’t mean that all his work is laced with digs at the Jews. It is just that Dave Sim the man ruined ‘Cerebus’ the comic book for me. Every time I thought ‘I should get another trade’ I simultaneously thought ‘I should pay Dave Sim.’
And I don’t want to pay Dave Sim.
‘Cerebus’ was an indie comic book, published by its creator. Dave Sim and Gerhard (the background artist) have complete control over ‘Cerebus;’ they are not beholden to anyone. Everytime you buy a copy of ‘Cerebus’ a large chuck of those monies goes back to Dave Sim.
Yet, despite my disquiet over his views, I should like to finish my ‘Cerebus’ collection. It’s just a matter of finding a way to do it. Part of me ‘shouts’ secondhand, part of me wonders why I’m so keen not to pay the artist… Then there is the matter of the other artisit, Gerhard, whose views on matters Sim-ian don’t seem to be a matter of public record.
Oh well, back to bedforshire.